The connection between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease is well known but puzzling to the medical community. We don’t quite understand why this pattern exists or whether there is a direct link between the two. However, there are several running theories as to how oral health and heart disease are linked that researchers have identified as possible explanations.
While there is still no concrete evidence that tending to your oral health is a heart disease preventative, engaging in good oral hygiene is safe, affordable, and requires very little time to complete.
Keep reading below for our most recent overview on the connection between the two ailments and some of the outstanding research on why this comorbidity may be prevalent in our society.
Features of Gum Disease
Containing Periodontitis and Gingivitis, gum disease is when bacteria accumulates on the gum tissue and causes structural damage in the mouth. These conditions range in severity from mild to severe and can all generally be prevented with good oral hygiene and dental care.
Gum disease is initially caused by plaque build-up. If this build-up persists (as can happen without regular dental visits), the plaque will harbor bacteria, prompting your body to have an immune response to the substance. This immune response ends up taking a toll on your enamel and bone structure, causing it to become worn down over time.
The lesser of the two diseases, Gingivitis, leads to Periodontal disease if improperly managed. During this time, symptoms progress in severity and may include all or some of the following:
- Inflamed gums that range from tender to bloody after brushing
- Persistent bad breath and potential bad taste
- Receding gums and large gaps between teeth
- Teeth that shift, causing looseness and bite changes
Please note that it is never normal to experience your adult teeth loosen or fall out. If this is the case, make an appointment with your dental care provider as quickly as possible.
Features of Heart Disease
According to statistics taken from the American Heart Association, nearly half of all American adults have some form of heart disease.
Heart disease is not a single condition, but an umbrella term to describe the various ailments of the cardiovascular system. These ailments can include anything from congenital heart problems (ones you were born with), heart arrhythmias (uneven heart beat), blood vessel diseases, and even leading toward heart attack and stroke.
There are several risk factors that contribute to heart disease, some within our control and some not. That being said, those at risk for heart disease tend to have some combination of the following:
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
- High blood pressure
While this list is non-exhaustive, it paints the picture that what is healthy for your body is healthy for your heart. However, the ultimate cause(s) will vary depending on the type of heart condition you suffer from.
As a general rule, the most common cause of heart disease is from plaque platelets collecting in the arteries and restricting blood flow. This can be due to several of the environmental factors above, especially lack of physical activity, poor diet, and smoking.
When Gum Health and Heart Health Collide
Knowing the basics of each disease type, it is now possible to look at the ways in which they coincide and why this might be the case.
- Bacteria from your gums travels into your bloodstream
The first operative theory is that the bacteria present in our mouth when we suffer from periodontal disease and other gum ailments find their way into the bloodstream. These bacteria then cause damage in the blood vessels, leading to hardening, plaque build up, and eventually heart attack and stroke.
- Your immune response causes inflammation
When our body encounters a foriegn substance, whether a virus or a bacteria, the immune system automatically reacts. It is theorized that when these bacteria travel from our mouth and into our bloodstream, the immune system reacts to kill off the foreign substance. This reaction creates inflammation within the blood vessels, potentially contributing to restricted arteries.
- What’s bad for your teeth is bad for your heart
Finally, medical professionals are examining whether the habits we have in day to day life simply affect both our gum and heart health independently, but simultaneously.
One of the top contenders for this assessment rests in populations who consume tobacco products as these individuals have an increased risk for both cardiovascular and oral illness. This points to the belief that while gum disease doesn’t cause heart disease directly, both illnesses are caused by similar external factors.
Calling an Area Dental Specialist
Taking care of your body starts with good oral hygiene. Without it, there is the risk that you will become susceptible to several other health conditions ranging from gum disease and heart palpitations, to potentially severe cardiac illnesses.
At EVDP, we want to make sure you and your family have access to the best dental care in the valley to ward off preventable illness. Established in the 1980s, EVDP is a trusted community staple for many generations of clients.
If you need a simple cleaning or perhaps are looking for more extensive care, don’t hesitate to give us a call at: 480-838-3033.